Chinese spy balloon may gather ‘unseen’ info as Beijing possibly ‘preparing the battlefield’: experts

A Chinese surveillance balloon that appeared over Montana could provide some insight into China’s operations and technology as the Pentagon continues to monitor its progress and prevent it from being shot down, experts say.

“There’s a certain … let’s say political and informational value in telling the Chinese that we’ve seen it or are seeing it, and that I think will make them think that we might as well. But trying to exploit and understand the situation. Improve their surveillance techniques and capabilities,” said Matt McInnes, senior fellow at the Institute for the Study of Wars’ China Program.

The US government has located a high-altitude surveillance balloon, first seen by the public over Montana, hovering over Malmstrom Air Force Base, the Pentagon announced Thursday. The US uses this base to store nuclear weapons.

Senior State and Defense Department officials have called the balloon’s presence in US airspace an “unacceptable” violation of US sovereignty, but have continued to caution against shooting it down. The balloon is about the size of three Greyhound buses and carries heavy surveillance equipment.

Republicans criticized the Biden administration for not taking action, with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tweeting Saturday, “First Biden refused to defend our borders, now he won’t defend our skies.”

China spy balloon show preparing country’s citizens for war that could come ‘any time’: expert

China’s foreign ministry acknowledged ownership of the balloon but insisted it was a civilian weather balloon that went off course. A senior US official told Fox News that the government believes “this was deliberate.”

A senior defense official said the US had scrambled jets after detecting the balloon on Wednesday because it was close to US airspace, and had considered shooting it down, but decided against it. was U.S. defense officials said Friday that the U.S. has stopped moving the balloon back to China, which could pose any existing national security threats.

A balloon flies in the sky on February 1, 2023 in Billings, Montana.
(Chez Doc/via Reuters.)

McInnes likened the balloons to the Cold War flights of U-2 spy planes, saying it “goes both ways,” but it’s understandable that Americans feel the government needs to do something, like the balloons. to shoot

“I wouldn’t be surprised if part of our goals here is to use this operation, because it’s already done damage, and [the U.S. can] Use this opportunity to understand what these balloons can do,” McInnes said.

Chinese spy balloon showed ‘no threat,’ top foreign affairs Democrat says

Rebecca Koffler, president of Doctrine and Strategy Consulting and a former DIA intelligence officer, argued that any information or insight the U.S. could gain from the balloon would be compromised by allowing the Chinese device to violate U.S. airspace. Not more than the damage done.

“I think there’s a cost to not shooting it down, but I think the risk of the Chinese thinking they can violate our airspace without consequence, in my view, is that this particular balloon. “Any insight we can gain from space far outweighs what we don’t already know from other sources,” Koffler, who specializes in foreign aerospace threats, theories and operations, said.

The map shows the approximate path of a Chinese surveillance balloon over Montana, Friday, February 3, 2023.

The map shows the approximate path of a Chinese surveillance balloon over Montana, Friday, February 3, 2023.
(Fox News)

Koffler explained that the balloon effectively provides China with a few distinct advantages that more traditional and predictable spying methods cannot, notably the ability to hover and gather data to see if China is U.S.-based. To what extent can capabilities be brought against. “Battlefield Preparation.”

“Satellites move, they don’t hover over a target,” Koffler said. “We don’t know what kind of sensors this particular balloon has, but it has different kinds of sensors” for what he called “measurement intelligence.”

China has civilized the spy balloon, which some in the US claim is ‘designed to attack and attack China’.

“It looks like this particular spy balloon is doing — and again, we don’t have confirmation of that — but it may be gathering our signals intelligence … and it’s gathering our communications. [military] targets and those facilities,” he added, adding that it could look at communications volumes to understand the US military’s operational procedures.

“With China’s growing tensions over Taiwan and their power style, what they’re concerned about is our response, so it’s important for them to track any kind of escalation in communications. May indicate that we are getting ready to do something.”

American views on China

American views on China
(Fox News)

The U.S. is in a fragile position, with its stockpile of missiles and munitions running low after a year-long effort to supply Ukraine while repelling a Russian invasion. Still, the effort has left the U.S. under strain — the perfect opportunity for China to test the capabilities of the single most important obstacle to its plans to retake Taiwan.

“Nowadays the battlefield is not just land, air and sea: it also includes cyberspace and aerospace domains, so [China] Looking at our response times — not just the response times but the overall response,” Koffler said. “The fact that we didn’t evacuate the balloon before it entered U.S. airspace, that’s for them. is important.”

The fact that the balloon is moving across the mainland United States, seen over North Carolina on Saturday, may actually encourage China to see “what else they can send.”

In part, the Chinese may want to see what other capabilities they can afford in the Taiwan situation, because they know the US is a “technology-dependent” country, meaning they should see What other ways can they “reach the Taiwan” table,” according to Koffler.

Such methods may include what many consider “low-tech”, such as surveillance balloons, despite the potentially sophisticated detection technology at hand. These additional capabilities can help “fill in the gaps” in other monitoring capabilities.

“It’s an incremental kind of creating a composite picture of what the war environment will be like if things go south,” Koffler concluded.

K Chris Pandolfo contributed to this report.

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